Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strangest McFoods from Around the World

McDonald’s is, at this point in American history, ubiquitous. You can’t swing a dead Fry Guy in the U.S. without hitting a McDonaldland. This isn’t only well-known; it’s part of their corporate identity right on their signage: billions and billions served (they’ve stopped counting, by the way—which sort of sucks, really).

What’s perhaps less known is that McDonald’s is ubiquitous worldwide. It’s not just Americans who are lovin’ it. But since tastes in fast food differ from place to place? So does the McFood being offered. And sometimes—at least to American eyes? The menu gets pretty odd.

10. McHomard (Canada)

Canadians are generally seen as a fairly even-tempered lot. But just try to take away this lobster-roll Mickey-D’s style (homard is French for lobster), and watch them Canadians kick some McAss. They say you can get this in Maine, too—but really, is Maine all that different from Canada? Let’s not split hairs, people.

9. Maharaja Mac (India)

Cows are sacred to the Hindi in India—and not in the same way that beef is sacred to the American dinner plate. So to avoid rioting in the Bangladesh streets, McDonald’s there came up with a new versions of the Big Mac: the McMutton. When that didn’t take, they tried chicken, and called in the Maharajah Mac (and no actual Maharajahs were harmed in the making of this Mac). So: Big Mac, hold the sacrilege.

8. Pasta Zoo Happy Meal (Australia)

The weird thing about this Australian kids’ meal wasn’t that it included animal-shaped pasta, or even that there were specifically ten pieces of pasta in each pack. (Okay, that’s a little anal, but whatever.) The really disturbing thing was the sauce, which they called Zoo Goo. I’m sorry, but…what? I’ve been to many zoos, and there’s no goo that I’ve seen there that I’d want anywhere near my pasta.

7. Greek Mac (Greece)

File this one under “barely even trying”. If you stick the innards of a Big Mac into a pita, does that mean that it’s Greek? I guess the special sauce is made from yogurt, but no feta? And the burgers are still crappy Mcpatties? I guess some disappointment is universal.

6. Bacon Potato Pie (Asia)

Pies at McDonald’s are normally limited to dessert items: their traditional apple, if you’re lucky, a specialty pie like cherry or blueberry, or pumpkin for the holidays. But ask for a pie in parts of Asia, and you’ll get something that tastes like either a deep fried pirogue, or an incomplete shepherd’s pie.

5. McMollettes (Mexico)

An English Muffin topped with refried beans, cheese, and salsa. I’m sorry, is this a Mexican dish, or something from a trailer park?

4. KiwiBurger (New Zealand)

This burger doesn’t sound so strange—beef patty, tomato, fried egg—until you get down to the last ingredient: beetroot. If someone asked me “hey, is there any veggie you don’t want to try on your burger?” “Beetroot” would be right up there. Just in case, I’d also not like the following on my burger: grass, corn husks, or orange rind.

3. My Poutine (Canada)

Everyone has their own idea of what’s good on French fries: ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, chili and cheese, even mustard. But in Quebec, they add cheese curds, and top it off with brown gravy. What’s more annoying than all that is the fact that they refer to it with the added possessive “My”. And honestly, I want no part of curds and gravy, thanks. Don’t try to drag me into that mess.

2. Koroke Burger (Japan)

This Japanese entry sort of defies the idea of “burger”. If it’s on a bun, and that’s all the sandwich shares with a hamburger, is it still a burger? If I put tuna salad on a bun, does that make it a burger? I don’t think so. Likewise, this concoction of mashed potato, shredded cabbage, and katsu sauce just doesn’t seem like a burger to me. It seems like a “here’s some crap I found in my fridge” sandwich (which is pretty much what I lived on in college).

1. Mega Mac (China, Ireland, Serbia, Japan, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand)

Okay, suddenly the Koroke Burger seems more logical. At least it’s probably semi-healthy. This monster is just a super-sized double-meat Big Mac, which means that the weirdest thing about it is that it’s not widely available in the States. And seriously, no more talk about how being stupid-obese is a peculiarly American deal, okay?

Original here

Porsche 911 GT3 R hybrid

By Stephen Dobie

Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Porsche is taking a hybrid version of its 911 supercar to the 2010 Geneva motor show. It’s no ordinary 911, either – it’s the GT3 R racing car, perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a green-pleasing powertrain.

Not that this one’s particularly green, of course. A 473bhp 4-litre flat-six engine powers the rear wheels, while two electric motors (each developing around 80bhp) power the front axle, effectively making this a four-wheel-drive GT3.

Those motors are powered by an electric flywheel generator, which is charged up by regenerative braking each time the driver slows. And rather than cutting in automatically during the drive (or indeed race) cycle, the electric power is made available KERS-style, as the racing driver requires it for a six to eight second boost.

The 911’s hybrid system is also intended to increase fuel efficiency. Ideal, really, as the car’s first big race with be May’s Nurburgring 24-hour race. And for Porsche, it really is about the taking part rather than the winning: racing the hybrid GT3 R will be ‘a ‘racing laboratory’ that will provide invaluable knowledge and insight on the subsequent use of hybrid technology in road-going Porsche sports car’.

A road-going hybrid version of the next 911, then? Certainly sounds like it…

Original here

Tesla CEO Takes Private Jet as Company Takes Public Loan

By Chuck Squatriglia


The CEO of Tesla Motors, which has received a fat federal loan, flew to Washington, D.C., aboard a private jet at least 12 times in the past 14 months. Although it isn’t unusual for CEOs to jet around on corporate planes, Elon Musk did so not long after lawmakers berated the heads of the Big Three automakers for doing the same thing while seeking a government bailout., citing FAA records, says Musk flew to Washington aboard his Dassault Falcon 900 on June 15, 2009 — one week before the Department of Energy agreed to lend the company $465 million to help build the Model S sedan, and two weeks after Tesla took over paying the plane’s operating costs. Those costs came to $175,000 in the second half of last year, according to the paperwork Tesla filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of an impending IPO.

The Silicon Valley automaker lost $31.5 million in the first nine months of 2009. Although the company has been steadily cutting its losses, it has lost $236.4 million since its founding in 2003. Tesla turned its first and only profit in July, 2009 but said in the Form S-1 filed with the SEC: “We expect the rate at which we will incur losses to increase significantly in future periods from current levels.” The same document notes Musk is taking $1 a year in salary.

Since Tesla started footing the bill, Musk’s plane has flown to Washington five other times, including one flight this year. Four of those flights were made after the feds approved the loan but before they finalized it. PeHub did not list the remaining six flights it claims Musk made since the beginning of 2009.

As PeHub notes, there’s nothing odd about the CEOs of tech firms billing their companies when flying in their jets. But PeHub quotes one venture capitalist who says it is highly unusual for the CEO of a startup to do so.

“It’s really not normal. and I don’t think it’s actually right,” said Ho Nam of Altos Ventures, which does not have a stake in Tesla. “It’s okay to expense what it would have cost to fly commercial, but the difference should be covered by the person using it. It’s really about the culture and the message it sends to the rest of the company.”

Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes said the company does not own a jet but pays for expenses incurred when Musk and other employees fly.

“Tesla has no corporate jet,” he said in an email. “When traveling on business, Elon and other Tesla employees have used his private airplane, especially for urgent or unscheduled travel, other times they fly coach. Tesla has paid for expenses such fuel charges and landing fees on some of the trips.”

Musk may have done nothing wrong. There’s nothing wrong with someone as busy as Musk — who runs three companies — flying around on a private jet. And some of those flights may have involved business related to Musk’s other ventures, Space-X and Solar City. But to have Tesla Motors foot the bill for any flights pertaining to its business while taxpayers underwrite the Model S is a colossal PR blunder.

Just ask Rick Wagoner, Alan Mulally and Robert Nardelli.

Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered


The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered.

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Southern Historical Collection/Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Francis Terry Leak’s diary was read by Faulkner. A page from 1856 records a slave sale.


Times Topics: William Faulkner

Associated Press

William Faulkner at his home near Oxford, Miss., in 1950.

The original manuscript, a diary from the mid-1800s, was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy plantation owner in Mississippi whose great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr. was a friend of Faulkner’s since childhood. Mr. Francisco’s son, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, now 79, recalls the writer’s frequent visits to the family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s, saying Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes. Mr. Francisco said he saw them in Faulker’s hands and remembers that he “was always taking copious notes.”

Specialists have been stunned and intrigued not only by this peephole into Faulkner’s working process, but also by material that may have inspired this Nobel-prize-winning author, considered by many to be one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century.

“I think it’s one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades,” said John Lowe, an English professor at Louisiana State University who is writing a book on Faulkner. He was one of a handful of experts who met Dr. Francisco at the hand-hewn log house in Holly Springs last month. There they saw the windowpane where a cousin, Ludie Baugh, etched the letters L-U-D-I-E into the glass while watching Confederate soldiers march by — a scene that appears in several Faulkner works.

During the gathering Dr. Francisco, known in childhood as Little Eddie, described how Faulkner stood in front of that window and said, “ ‘She’s still here,’ like she was a ghost,” Professor Lowe recalled.

Dr. Francisco, speaking by telephone from his home in Atlanta, remembered hearing Faulkner rant as he read Leak’s pro-slavery and pro-Confederacy views: “Faulkner became very angry. He would curse the man and take notes and curse the man and take more notes.”

Sally Wolff-King, a scholar of Southern literature at Emory University who uncovered the connection between the author and the journal, called it “a once-in-a-lifetime literary find.”

“The diary and a number of family stories seem to have provided the philosophical and thematic power for some of his major works,” she added.

Names of slaves owned by Leak — Caruthers, Moses, Isaac, Sam, Toney, Mollie, Edmund and Worsham — all appear in some form in “Go Down, Moses.” Other recorded names, like Candis (Candace in the book) and Ben, show up in “The Sound and The Fury” (1929) while Old Rose, Henry, Ellen and Milly are characters in “Absalom, Absalom!” (1936). Charles Bonner, a well-known Civil War physician mentioned in the diary, would also seem to be the namesake of Charles Bon in “Absalom.”

Scholars found Faulkner’s decision to give his white characters the names of slaves particularly arresting. Professor Wolff-King said she believes he was “trying to recreate the slaves lives and give them a voice.”

Dr. Francisco says he is still very uncomfortable that his family’s connection to Faulkner has come to light. “I wouldn’t have done it at all,” he said about publicizing the diary. “My wife urged me until I finally did it,” he said of Anne Salyerds Francisco, his wife of 50 years. “She pushed and Sally pulled.”

“There were long-repressed things that Faulkner uncovered that I didn’t know were in the family,” Dr. Francisco explained, adding that his father never talked about Leak and his slave-owning past. “I just bottled all that up and forgot about it.”

Dr. Francisco said that neither he nor his father ever read much of Faulkner’s work, including “Go Down, Moses.”

“I tried to read that book years ago,” he said, “but I got so angry I threw it across the room, and it stayed there for months.” He said he now might give it another go.

The mothers of Faulkner and of Dr. Francisco’s father were close. The boys went to each other’s childhood birthday parties. Later they double dated and became hunting and drinking buddies, remaining friends until their 40s, when they drifted apart, a situation probably encouraged by Mr. Francisco’s wife, who did not approve of Faulkner’s drinking, smoking and cursing.

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Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, above, with a typescript of an old family diary. As a boy, he used to see William Faulkner reading the original.


Times Topics: William Faulkner

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Sally Wolff-King, a Faulkner scholar who bases some of her new research on the diary.

Professor Wolff-King had been working on a book about people who knew Faulkner and ended up connecting with Dr. Francisco because he was an alumnus of Emory. When she visited his home in Atlanta, his wife suggested he show the professor a typescript copy of the ledger. Included was a facsimile of a page that listed dollar amounts paid for individual slaves.

“At that moment I realized this diary may not only have influenced the ledger and slave sale record in ‘Go Down, Moses’ but also likely served an important source for much of William Faulkner’s work,” said Professor Wolff-King, who has spent 30 years studying the writer.

A short preview of her findings is in the fall 2009 issue of The Southern Literary Journal; her book “Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Diary,” is due out in June from Louisiana State University Press.

Professor Lowe reviewed the manuscript before publication. To protect against leaks the editor arranged a meeting in a coffee shop. “He gave me the manuscript in a plain brown wrapper, and I was sworn to secrecy,” he said.

“I was electrified when I was reading it,” he said. “Faulkner had a very intense and intellectual relationship with Dr. Francisco’s father,” which seems to have formed “the basis of some of the conversations you find in ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ and ‘Go Down, Moses.’ ”

The Leak papers are not unfamiliar to scholars. The family donated the journal, which includes the plantation accounts as well as descriptive sections, to the University of North Carolina in 1946 and received a typescript copy of the material that runs 1,800 pages. The original documents have been used by Southern economists and social historians for their insights into Mississippi’s plantation life, but no one has previously been aware that Faulkner, who died in 1962, had any connection to them.

Professor Wolff-King argues that elements and terms from the diary repeatedly surface in Faulkner’s work, including the ticking sound of a watch that Quentin Compson is obsessed with in “The Sound and the Fury”; descriptions of building a plantation match Thomas Sutpen’s in “Absalom, Absalom!”

Noel Polk, the editor of The Mississippi Quarterly and among the deans of Faulkner scholars, said, “I was surprised at the discovery of what is so clearly a major piece of information about his life, and maybe his work.”

He and others said it was still too early for them to gauge just how significant the diary is without reading Professor Wolff-King’s book and examining the ledgers themselves, especially when it comes to the more common details about the antebellum and Civil War eras.

“Almost every document that you can come up with that Faulkner used is interesting, but the question is what do you do with it,” Judith L. Sensibar, whose biography “Faulkner and Love: The Women Who Shaped His Art” was published last year. What does it tell us, for instance, about his “obsession with the ways in which slavery has disfigured the lives of both the slaves and their masters?” she asked.

Although literary experts have been taken aback by this unexpected find, Faulkner more than anyone would have understood how the past can unpredictably poke its nose into the present.

Original here